Chapter 7: Proximity Issues

During the Panel's cross-Canada consultation process, we experienced first-hand a vivid example of the risks of proximity when trains and people interact. Travelling from Calgary to Edmonton in a CP track evaluation car, we had stopped briefly near a crossing at Wetaskiwin, Alberta, where there are schools and residential and commercial development on both sides of the railway tracks. It was mid-afternoon, and students were emerging from school. We watched as a young boy, not more than 10 years old, with his bicycle and backpack, attempted to crawl under a tank car in a freight train that was waiting for the main track to clear. A waiting motorist honked, and a railway employee came to reprimand the boy. In the meantime, while we watched in horror, an older boy left a group of children waiting at the crossing and climbed over the couplers between cars mere seconds before the train started to move again. We were told that such incidents are daily occurrences for the railways.

Wetaskiwin, Alberta, April 2007
Wetaskiwin, Alberta, April 2007

The near tragedy described above has served as a constant reminder to us of one of the primary objectives of the Railway Safety Act - to promote and provide for the safety of the public. It clearly demonstrated that the encroachment of new development near railways, along with heavier highway and rail traffic, leads to the increased interaction of people and trains and inevitable proximity issues. We believe, however, that these issues can be at least partially resolved by good community outreach on the part of the railway companies, and the enhancement of ongoing public education and contribution programs.

7.1 New Development Near Railway Property

During the 19th century, many communities in Canada sprang up around railways - their link to the rest of the country and the world. Over the next century, for demographic and economic reasons, these communities expanded and many railways moved their yards and operating facilities away from the highly populated town centres. In the late 20th century, increasing numbers of residential and commercial developments were built in close proximity to railway properties, both in the downtown cores and in outlying areas. This trend continues today. In some cases, as we witnessed only too vividly, development can result in a residential area on one side of the track and schools or recreational facilities on the other, in spite of the obvious safety concerns relating to crossings and trespassing.

Residents of the new developments complain not only about crossing safety and train speeds through their community, but also about blocked crossings, the noise, pollution and vibrations emanating from the trains and their yards, and the quantity of dangerous goods being carried on trains through densely populated areas. The Panel received many submissions regarding these issues, from residents in urban and rural municipalities alike.

7.1.1 Current Process for New Development

When will our municipalities stop allowing new homes to be built so close to railway tracks?

Luba Lallouz Submission.

The issue of new development near railways is a multi-jurisdictional challenge, since land-use planning and development is both a provincial and a municipal responsibility, while the major railways and their rights-of-way are federally regulated. There are no consistent consultation protocols or land-use appeal mechanisms across the country, and provincial and municipal land zoning and permit procedures vary widely. Under the Railway Safety Act (s.8(1)), a railway company must give notice of a proposed railway work to adjacent landowners and the municipality. Municipalities and developers, however, are not required to provide similar notice to railway companies when they plan new development near railway lines.

With few exceptions, railways have no power beyond their rail right of way and cannot control adjacent landowners' land use. … [A] federal regulator can cause a railway to address a proximity complaint, but has little or no authority over a … municipal authority whose inadequate planning may have … led to the incompatible land use situation in the first place.1

Many of the submissions we received, from railway companies, municipalities, provinces, affected residents, Members of Parliament, sector associations and the general public, expressed concern about the proliferation of new development near railways. Several municipalities wanted better coordination between regional interests and railway companies to minimize risks to people and the environment. The District of North Vancouver, for example, stressed the need for federal guidelines and enforcement powers to mitigate the impacts of rail activities in urban areas, and the participation of municipalities in this process. The City of Côte Saint-Luc cited the need for robust consultation and a dispute resolution process that would oblige municipalities and railways to consult in planning matters, saying there is increasing pressure from developers and private landowners to develop along the railway corridor and in close proximity to the railway yards.2 The Province of Manitoba raised similar issues:

Taken together, neither the Canada Transportation Act nor the RSA adequately deals with the sustainability dimension of railway operations - that is, what is reasonable from a railway operating and infrastructure planning and development perspective as it impacts on the quality of life of citizens and communities and the environment.3

We learned that municipalities and developers often do not notify railway companies when land abutting their rights-of-way is subdivided or slated for development. A 2007 Transportation Development Centre (TDC) report on safety at private crossings also discusses this issue:

In certain instances, land is sold and housing subdivisions are built without any access except across the tracks at an existing private crossing. Municipalities have issued building permits without ensuring there are legal access provisions for the new residential area. Once houses are built, the crossing becomes used by all residents and is required for emergency services access; therefore, it cannot be closed. … The roadway does not fall under the responsibility of the road authority because there is no agreement governing it; therefore, the railway and the original crossing applicant become responsible for a de facto public crossing.4

The Panel is encouraged, however, by some recent developments. Several stakeholders mentioned Ontario's new buffer zone requirements. Regulations under Ontario's Planning Act now require that railways be notified of official plans (and amendments), subdivision plans, zoning bylaws and consents to sever lands if the proposal involves any land within 300 metres of a railway line.5 The railways may review the documents and recommend provisions to address any potential land use compatibility issues. If the railways' proposed adjustments to deal with such issues are not incorporated into the land development project, the railways may raise the matter with the Ontario Municipal Board.

Ontario's approach allows for potential incompatible land use issues to be raised and addressed prior to the matter becoming a problem. It also ensures that potential purchasers of such residential properties are properly advised of any such existing situation.6

This is a step in the right direction, and the Community-Rail Proximity Initiative developed by the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is another. The RAC represents most of the railways in Canada, while the FCM speaks for 1,653 municipal governments, representing 90 per cent of the Canadian population. In 2003, the RAC and FCM, supported by the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA), signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) on proximity issues - “to build common approaches to the prevention and resolution of issues when people live and work in close proximity to railway operations.”7 The MOU was renewed for two years in January 2007. This initiative recognizes the need for better communication among various stakeholders, including railways, municipalities and developers.

Under the MOU, the parties will jointly work … to develop and implement a strategy to reduce misunderstanding and avoid unnecessary conflict arising from railway-community proximity. Areas for action include: developing commonly understood proximity guidelines; improving awareness among all stakeholders regarding the need for effective planning and management; and developing a dispute resolution protocol to guide concerned parties when issues emerge.8

The proximity guidelines are intended, among other things, to reduce trespassing potential, minimize the effects of noise and vibration, and provide appropriate buffers and berms. A dispute resolution framework was also created, which included community advisory panels.

As a result of the RAC/FCM initiative, the City of Edmonton recently passed an amendment to its zoning bylaw addressing residential development on lands adjacent to railway rights-of-way and establishing regulations to address safety, security, noise, vibration and trespass for development on lands adjacent to rail facilities in Edmonton.

Recent amendments to the Canada Transportation Act complement the MOU framework. Before these amendments, citizens adversely affected by noise and vibrations from railway operations could either make a formal complaint to the company or seek civil action through the courts. No federal body was mandated to regulate railway noise and vibrations. The new amendments to the Act give the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) the authority to resolve noise and vibration complaints caused by the construction or operation of railways under federal jurisdiction. The CTA has also issued draft guidelines setting out the collaborative measures that parties must apply before it can conduct an investigation or hearing.9 The guidelines focus on required proximity elements and principles, not standards or thresholds, and promote the types of protocols and recommended practices that are contained in the MOU.10 We are convinced from our consultations that there is a need to improve and formalize the communication between municipal jurisdictions and the railways on the safety implications of land use and road access near railway properties. Roles and responsibilities should be clarified and recognized. Municipalities and landowners, including the railways, should engage in robust consultation during the design and planning stages for land use and non-railway works near railway lines. Municipalities should ensure that access roads for new subdivisions are built to existing public crossings, and they should take responsibility for the crossings during the development phase. The costs for the ongoing maintenance of the crossings should also be considered in planning. Municipalities might need to require developers to absorb the costs of crossing upgrades to accommodate new land uses.11

In summary, there is an increasing need for the integration of rail transportation issues in land-use planning to ensure that adequate consultation takes place between the developer, the municipality or other local government, and the railway on proposed changes in zoning and uses of lands abutting railway lines and yards. Shared solutions arrived at through such consultations lead to the notion of shared financing of these solutions. Opportunities to promote active partnerships with local authorities should be encouraged. Railway infrastructure should be considered in the design, zoning and planning of communities to reduce opportunities for negative interaction between trains and people.

Recommendation 34

The Railway Safety Act should be amended to require the developer and municipalities to engage in a process of consultation with railway companies prior to any decision respecting land use that may affect railway safety.

7.2 Crossing Safety

A crossing is the point at which a public or private road meets a railway line or right-of-way. Public crossings at grade level (grade crossings) may include active warning systems (automated gates, lights and bells) or passive warnings (crossbucks and other signage), depending on criteria such as the volume of road and rail traffic. Grade separations (bridges and underpasses) are used in particularly high-traffic volume areas or locations that pose a special risk. As we mentioned in Chapter 4, the Railway Safety Act stipulates rules and regulations for all aspects of railway crossing safety, including crossing construction, access to railway land, and control of automobile and pedestrian traffic on road approaches to railway crossings. While Transport Canada oversees railway compliance, and railway companies have rigorous safety inspection programs for crossings, crossing safety is also a shared responsibility among the railway authorities, the local community and the regulatory and investigation agencies.12

Any discussion of land use near railways must include the major challenge of grade crossing safety. Watching small children dodging around large, heavy trains at the grade crossing near Wetaskiwin was a sombre reminder to the Panel of the importance and dangers to the public of rail and highway intersections, especially given today's increasing road traffic, and the number, length and speed of trains. It was a reminder, too, that many crossing and trespassing accidents occur because people underestimate the speed and distance of trains. A train can take more than a minute and up to two kilometres to come to a complete stop.13

There are approximately 43,000 federally and provincially regulated public and private railway grade crossings in communities across Canada,14 so it is not surprising that the issue of their safety looms large for railway companies, the federal government, provinces, municipalities, the general public and others. We heard many thought-provoking opinions from all parts of the country on the closure of existing crossings, the creation of new crossings, and the safety of crossings. Members of the public, municipalities and first responders have concerns about trains blocking crossings for too long; municipalities, provinces and railways have concerns about the funding of crossing safety improvements.

Other countries recognize the importance of addressing crossing safety issues. Australia, for example, is in the process of introducing legislation that will require railway companies and road authorities to work together to do a risk assessment of crossings and develop mitigating measures.

In the United States, where there are more than 250,000 public and private grade crossings, crossing and trespasser deaths account for 90 per cent of all rail-related deaths.15 As part of its Highway-Rail Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention Program, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dedicates 26 employees to grade crossing and trespassing issues. The FRA is responsible for public grade crossing issues that affect highway safety, and administers the distribution of federal funds (US$220 million per year) to eliminate hazards at both public and private level crossings, through closures, grade separation, advanced signalling technologies, and other means.16 Funding is given to individual states, which decide on their priorities for grade crossing improvements, including creating or closing crossings. In addition, individual railway companies have active programs to help prevent grade crossing accidents. For example, BNSF Railway Company is working closely with communities and property owners, and has closed over 3,500 public and private crossings since 2000.17

In Canada, as in the U.S., crossing and trespassing accidents are by far the largest source of railway fatalities and serious injuries, comprising 87 per cent in 2006.18 The research study, The State of Railway Safety in Canada, notes that while several factors have influenced the statistics on crossing and trespassing accidents (for example, the change in 1992 that made more crossing accidents reportable, CN and CP transfer of lines to provincial railways, Direction 2006 and the increasing growth in road traffic), the importance of crossing and trespassing accidents as the major source of serious injuries and fatalities in rail accidents is without question.19

That being said, there has been a downward trend in the number of crossing accidents since the 1980s (see Figure 2.4 in Chapter 2). This has been attributed to a number of factors. Public education initiatives, such as Operation Lifesaver and Direction 2006, have been very effective. They are supported by all levels of government, the rail industry and its unions, national and provincial safety councils and leagues, sector associations, police and first responders, and public and community groups. Industry restructuring has resulted in the elimination of a number of grade crossings through line abandonment and other processes. Crossing protection systems have been modernized and improved. Railway safety inspectors have been able to focus more attention on the safety of existing crossings since the transfer of some of their duties to the CTA in 1989. The wide dissemination of documentation on the proposed grade crossing regulations between 1995 and 2003 led to much greater awareness of crossing safety. Perhaps most importantly, the federal Grade Crossing Improvement Program has funded many safety improvements.

While there is some cause for satisfaction, we believe that there is much work to be done to improve safety at crossings. As both rail and road traffic continue to grow, the risk of grade crossing accidents will continue to increase.

Crossing safety is a key issue for all railways, whether under federal or provincial jurisdiction. While the great majority of crossings are on federally regulated railways and are governed solely by federal legislation, there are also a number of provincially regulated crossings to which nine different provincial standards apply. 20 Jurisdictional disagreements can arise over such issues as lighting, fencing, drainage culverts and maintenance of roads at crossings. An important factor in crossing and trespassing accidents is that they involve and are usually caused by third parties. The enforcement of crossing safety is also a jurisdictional challenge, with national, provincial, municipal and railway police forces all involved to some degree.

Research is of great importance in improving crossing safety and many useful studies have been carried out over the last few years. In Canada, Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre (TDC) is the lead agency for the development and implementation of the Highway-Railway Grade Crossing Research Program, which was a major component of the Direction 2006 research area. Transport Canada, larger Canadian railways and several provincial authorities are the primary research sponsors, with other stakeholders providing cash and in-kind contributions. This program is investigating innovative technologies to increase the effectiveness and lower the cost of warning systems. It is also looking at the human factors that contribute to grade crossing collisions. The areas being examined include risk mitigation methodologies; driver, pedestrian and vehicle behaviour; enforcement technologies; active warning crossings; signal lights and structures; passive warning crossings; train-based warning systems; and outreach and technology transfer. 21 We encourage Transport Canada to take a leadership role in the advancement of technologies that would improve crossing safety. We discuss the technological aspects of crossing safety more fully in Chapter 10.

7.2.1 Crossing Closures

The most obvious way of minimizing interaction between people and trains and eliminating accidents at railway grade crossings is to close the crossing. In its submission to the Review, the RAC noted that international railway safety experts have stressed the importance of grade crossing elimination or consolidation as a key element in reducing crossing accidents. Closing a crossing is, however, no simple matter.

Transport Canada has the authority to permanently close a crossing if there is an immediate threat to safety. This action is rarely taken because appropriate remedial measures can usually be put in place to improve the safety of a crossing.22 Railway companies may close private crossings that have been established “by grace” (where a person purchases separate parcels of land on each side of the rail right-of-way), for example, when a crossing owner does not respect the stipulations of the crossing agreement in place. This appears to be done only in extreme circumstances. In such cases, affected landowners may appeal the railway decision to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which will review the case. Railways can also remove crossings that are no longer in use.23

Finally, a private crossing owner may close a crossing voluntarily. In some cases, the railways offer financial assistance for voluntary closures, and under section 12.1 of the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada's Grade Crossing Closure Program offers subsidies for closing a crossing under certain conditions. The funding is limited, however, and does not realistically reflect the costs of establishing alternative access to the crossing. The TDC study on safety at private crossings noted that “existing crossing closure programs seem to offer little incentive for private crossing owners to close their crossings, and almost no flexibility for multiple stakeholders to work together to develop alternative access strategies.”24

The RAC and the railways recommended that the crossing closure program be given greater priority by Transport Canada, and that crossing reduction targets be developed, as has been done successfully in the United States. The Panel agrees that more emphasis should be put on identifying crossings that could be closed.

7.2.2 New Crossings

The creation of new crossings is another contentious issue. Under section 8.1 of the Railway Safety Act, the proponent must give notice of a proposed new crossing to the other parties involved. If there are any objections for safety reasons, the proponent must apply to the Minister, who considers the matter and makes a ruling.

From an economic standpoint, if the landowner and the railway disagree on whether they have a right to build a new public, private or utility crossing (one involving wires, cables or pipelines), they can apply to the Canadian Transportation Agency for a ruling. Under the Canada Transportation Act, if someone buys property on both sides of a railway line, they can request a crossing. In addition, the railway is obliged to provide a crossing when property is otherwise severed. Over the last 10 years, the CTA has received 23 applications for private crossings under section 102 (by right - where an owner's land has been divided as a result of the construction of the railway line), of which nine were granted, and 14 denied. Under section 103 (by grace), there were 11 applications, of which nine were granted and two denied.25

Railways generally oppose the creation of new crossings, for reasons of safety, and believe that the CTA should give higher priority to safety in reviewing crossing applications. The CTA maintains that, while its role is primarily an economic one, decisions about the “suitability” of particular crossings include safety considerations. It informs Transport Canada if there are potential safety concerns and seeks the department's opinion prior to making a decision. In fact, all new crossings authorized by the CTA must comply with the safety requirements of the Railway Safety Act.

In its submission, VIA Rail recommended regulations prohibiting the construction of new crossings unless it can be clearly shown that all other options have been fully reviewed and determined not to be feasible.26 VIA also noted in its presentation to the Panel that rural crossings should be eliminated or combined. This is not surprising. Given the nature of passenger rail operations, which involve relatively light trains moving at high speeds, the great majority of accidents involving passenger trains are crossing and trespassing accidents. Most of the increase in passenger train accidents (from 67 in 2002, to 85 in 2005) was accounted for by crossing accidents.27

The FCM points out that communities with limited land for development would be crippled if new crossings were not allowed. Our previous recommendation on new development near railways would require consultation on the construction of new crossings, among other issues. Although we acknowledge that new crossings must sometimes be constructed, we strongly feel that efforts should be made to limit their numbers, and that grade separations, such as bridges and underpasses, should be considered as an alternative.

The cost issues of grade separations are of course considerable, and their extensive construction is probably an unachievable dream in Canada, given that the population is so thinly spread over such a vast geography, and that the tax base is correspondingly diluted. Large cities may be the exception, and indeed, joint public/ private funding was announced last year for a new railway underpass in Winnipeg, and in June of this year for several grade separation projects.28

7.2.3 Safety at Existing Crossings

Since Canada's size and population cannot support many grade separations or even crossing closures, we will always have to deal with the issue of making the thousands of existing highway-railway crossings scattered across the country safe for all users. This is a primary concern for all levels of government, railway companies, first responders and the general public, especially people who must regularly drive and walk across railway lines in the course of their day-to-day business. While the number of crossing accidents appears to be decreasing, there is no room for complacency. One has only to look at Transportation Safety Board investigation reports on crossing accidents to see that there are many issues still to be solved.29 With new urban development, the growing number of vehicles and drivers, and the increasing length, frequency and tonnage of trains, the potential for serious grade crossing accidents is growing.

Before crossing the tracks … I stopped to make sure a train wasn't coming. However, when I was in the middle of the crossing, the red lights started flashing, the arm started down and I was horrified to see a train approaching from the west.

Gwen Glover Submission.

We heard harrowing stories from people across the country about their encounters with railway crossings. We also heard harrowing stories from railways and their employees and police about motorists and pedestrians who ignore the warning devices at crossings and take unnecessary risks. In fact, we learned that more than 50 per cent of crossing accidents occur at crossings equipped with active warning systems. Technology by itself is obviously not sufficient to solve existing crossing safety problems, but must be coupled with robust outreach and public education programs, and an understanding of human behaviour. The railway industry refers to the importance of the “four Es” in advancing highway-railway crossing safety: engineering, enforcement, education and evaluation.

A number of improvements to crossing safety have been introduced over the years. These include reflectorization (of crossing signs and rail cars), automated gates, lights and bells, signage, road markings, access control measures, such as security fencing, and grade separations in high traffic-volume areas. Technological innovations include low-cost automatic warning systems, expanded use of LED lights on gate arms, flashing lights instead of signs, illuminated signs, wayside warning systems and in-vehicle crossing warning systems. There have also been suggestions that other low-cost solutions could be developed which, while not optimal, would be a significant improvement over the simple warning signs that exist at many crossings.30 For example, a U.S. study on the use of the “Yield” sign to supplement crossbucks concluded that it is the most promising passive traffic control device for general use at crossings because it is clearly recognized and understood.31

Monitoring and enforcement of crossing violations are important contributors to the safety of existing crossings, and several agencies are involved. Federal railway safety inspectors enforce the provisions of the Railway Safety Act; local police forces enforce federal and provincial laws; and CN and CP railway police enforce federal laws on railway property and within 500 metres of that property.32 In some cases, this arrangement seems to work well with good cooperation on all sides; however, we also heard that, for VIA Rail in particular, the application of rules across regions and host railways is a problem, with railways sometimes enforcing those rules inconsistently.33

We learned of a number of effective monitoring and enforcement initiatives that are under way. Several railways, for example, are using the Silent Witness program. As part of a CN pilot program, digital video recorder systems have been installed at a number of particularly dangerous highway-railway crossings in Ontario. In addition, GO Transit has installed video cameras in all of its locomotive cabs to record safety violations and near misses.34 Both of these programs are proving to be remarkably successful, as are similar initiatives in the United States.

Three issues connected to safety at existing crossings were repeatedly mentioned during our consultations: blocked crossings, the Grade Crossing Improvement Program and the proposed Grade Crossing Regulations.

7.2.4 Blocked Crossings

Blocked highway-railway crossings are an increasing safety concern for many. The time permitted for a train to block a railway crossing at grade is governed by Canadian Rail Operating Rule (CROR) 103(c), which states that no part of a train or engine may stand on any part of a public crossing for longer than five minutes when vehicular or pedestrian traffic requires passage. This rule does not apply to private crossings, which can be blocked for extended periods. When emergency vehicles require passage, however, railways must clear both public and private crossings as quickly as possible. Switching operations must not obstruct traffic at public crossings for longer than five minutes at a time.35

A train that is moving very slowly, however, is not considered in violation of CROR 103(c) and can block the crossing for much longer than five minutes. Train lengths and urban development have increased, and in some locations, slow train speeds may result in a busy crossing being blocked for well in excess of five minutes. If a train stops on a crossing for more than five minutes, and a vehicle must cross, a crew member must walk from the locomotive to the crossing location to separate the train cars manually to allow for vehicle and pedestrian passage. At times, this can result in a walk of a mile and a half which, in bad weather, can easily take more than 30 minutes.

Members of the public from all parts of the country complained to us about trains blocking crossings for much longer than five minutes. For example, we heard that in Wabush, Labrador, vehicles have been forced to wait at crossings for 20 minutes, leading to safety concerns about being cut off from the hospital. The Town of Rivers, Manitoba, cited waits of 45 minutes to an hour.36 Emergency vehicle access is the most important issue for many; however, there are also concerns about school bus access, vehicle idling, delays in agricultural deliveries and the lack of response by the railway companies to complaints.

[O]ur street can be used for hours a day … with locomotives pulling forward and backing up, working outside of the yard, in between our homes, blocking the road and restricting access, often very well beyond the 5 minute legal limit. …. One resident … recalls having her children and a friend in her car, with the tracks blocked for a period of 55 minutes, without anyone attempting to communicate an explanation to her….

Joanne Fisher Submission.

The tendency for motorists and pedestrians to engage in erratic and dangerous behaviour when faced with a potential blocked crossing was also mentioned. Several solutions to the blocking problem and emergency access were suggested, including installing emergency telephones near critical crossings.

It was pointed out by a TCRC representative in Saskatchewan that the five-minute crossing rule is a “farce,” and that new 9,500 foot trains, which are almost two miles in length, can block more than one crossing at a time.37 Conversely, railway companies noted that fewer (but longer) trains actually lead to less blocking of crossings than more numerous (but shorter) trains.

The Panel acknowledges that the blocking of crossings by trains is indeed a valid safety concern. We are satisfied, however, that the RAC/FCM proximity guidelines, as well as the recommendations we have made in the previous chapters, will help railway companies, municipalities and the regulator to address this issue through better consultation and enforcement of existing rules.

7.2.5 Grade Crossing Improvement Program

Transport Canada's Grade Crossing Improvement Program (GCIP) is an important contributor to safety at existing crossings and has invested more than $100 million in crossing safety improvements over the past 15 years.38 Under section 12 of the Railway Safety Act, the GCIP provides contributions of up to 80 per cent of the cost of improvements to railway safety at public crossings in Canada. The balance of the funding is split between the railways (7.5 per cent) and the road authorities (12.5 per cent).

The program has been successful and we feel it should be continued and the funding increased. An examination of crossing collisions since 1990 indicates that virtually all the decline in crossing fatalities has occurred in the group of crossings where safety improvements have been funded under the GCIP.39 The number of collisions at public crossings that were not improved under the GCIP, and at all private crossings, has remained constant or declined only slightly during that period.

The GCIP generated much discussion during our Review, as did the possibility of reintroducing grants for grade separations. Currently, the program applies only to public, federally regulated crossings, and stakeholders feel that many private crossings present similar safety risks. There are approximately 20,000 private crossings in Canada, many of which are used by the general public. As was discussed in the previous section, a crossing that starts out as private in a new subdivision can very quickly become a de facto public crossing. In its draft crossing regulations, Transport Canada has replaced the terms “public” and “private” with “unrestricted” and “restricted,” to better reflect the use of the crossing. In the Panel's opinion, the GCIP should apply to private crossings as well as public. Private crossings do present safety issues and should not be excluded from funding, especially if they are used by the general public, an important consideration that would be prominent in the eligibility criteria.

The lack of federal funding to upgrade crossings on provincially regulated railways was raised by several provinces. New Brunswick pointed out that VIA Rail runs most of its distance through the province on provincially regulated track, which is not eligible under current rules for federal crossing upgrade grants. The Panel found that there is disagreement over the funding formula for the GCIP and who should pay for the maintenance costs of railway infrastructure at crossings - the railways or the road authorities. Submissions from Ontario stated that the process for GCIP funding is divisive. Northumberland County noted, for example, that:

The RSA and processes associated with the allocation of funding for improvement to railway/road crossings and grade separations is currently an adversarial process that sets local municipalities against railway companies for limited available funding through fewer and fewer sources.

By virtue of this process, the limited available money is used up on legal fees and appeal costs to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA); money that would be more appropriately utilized on actual physical improvements to grade crossing improvements, signals and other safety devices intended to protect the public.40

Saskatchewan has 25 per cent of all grade crossings in Canada. We were told by Saskatchewan provincial officials that the backlog of planned grade crossing projects due to funding constraints is compromising safety.41 Often, local governments make funding applications to Transport Canada and have to wait for up to five years for the grant, living with the safety risks in the interim and then discovering that the original construction estimates on which the application was based no longer apply. Although we were told that the department goes through an annual priority-setting exercise each year where each region recommends its most critical crossings for GCIP funds, most provinces have important projects waiting to be funded. For example, three of New Brunswick's five railway crossings on the National Highway System have an average traffic count of more than 20,000 vehicles per day. Funding to assist with the grade separation of these crossings is a high priority for the province.42

The recent federal/provincial joint-funding agreement for short line railway infrastructure in Quebec was mentioned by several provinces. Provinces also noted that more research programs are needed to develop incremental safety improvements that can be implemented at grade crossings by local road authorities to maximize the limited resources available.

The Railway Safety Act, under section 14, provides the vehicle through which government funding could occur. We support additional funding for federally regulated public and private crossings and recommend that this provision be utilized. Provinces recognize, however, that there is a need for a regional ranking system for crossing improvements to assist in identifying priorities for funding. The Panel is not in favour of making provincial railway crossings eligible for federal funding. The interface between provincial and municipal roads and provincially regulated track is clearly a provincial responsibility.

7.2.6 Proposed Grade Crossing Regulations

Many provinces and municipalities commented on Transport Canada's proposed Grade Crossing Regulations in their submissions. These regulations and the supporting Technical Standards and Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Requirements (RTD 10), would replace current regulations for the construction, inspection, testing and maintenance of grade crossings and their approaches, and the control of the use of land adjoining crossings as it affects safe railway operations. They would establish safety standards for the construction, inspection, testing and maintenance of all at-grade crossings and road approaches, as well as a requirement for periodic safety assessments (at least once every five years) and other specified assessments.

While Transport Canada began to develop the regulations in 1988, they have not yet been adopted, although we were told that, in practice, provincial road authorities are performing their crossing work functions to meet the new proposed standards, especially for new crossings. Many municipalities are constrained, however, by the resources they can devote to safety assessments, crossing maintenance and upgrading of existing crossings.43

Provinces and municipalities appear to have two outstanding concerns about the regulations: cost and process. Under the proposed regulations, railway companies and road owners will be required to conduct safety assessments of all public road crossings within five years. These assessments will result in the systematic identification of all grade crossings with deficiencies, as opposed to the ad hoc identification of such crossings by Transport Canada inspectors.

Implementing RTD 10 will lead to the identification of a substantial number of crossing improvement projects. Addressing these projects will be delayed due to a lack of funding. Nova Scotia would expect the establishment of a national funding program accessible to all railways where there is a significant change in the regulatory requirements.

Government of Nova Scotia, Submission, page 5.

Manitoba summed up the positions of many of the provinces when it expressed concern that the new RTD 10 requirements will impose even greater cost and other resource burdens than already exist. Like Nova Scotia, Manitoba recommends that Transport Canada improve the GCIP to allow parties involved in crossing safety the means to reasonably deal with the cost of compliance with the proposed regulations. 44 Ontario also commented about the effect of RTD 10 on its short lines, noting concerns that “[the proposed Grade Crossing Regulations] will impose a costly burden on short line railways without any concomitant increase in railway safety.”45

We are struck by the fact that neither the Grade Crossing Regulations nor the Access Control Regulations (discussed later in this chapter) have yet been adopted. Given their potential impact on provinces and municipalities, these regulations are an example of the kind of strategic issue that should be made a priority for the revived Federal-Provincial Working Group on Railway Safety mentioned in Chapter 3. As a result of our consultations and our research, and considering the issues discussed above, we are convinced that increased funding is required for grade crossing improvements. It is clearly important to improve crossing safety in Canada by strengthening and consolidating existing programs, and we see a need once again for consultation and cooperation among the disparate parties involved. Cost sharing among railways, road authorities and others would help to reduce the backlog of planned grade crossing improvements.

Recommendation 35

Transport Canada, with the railways and other relevant stakeholders, should develop a program to:

  • identify where crossings can be closed;
  • limit the number of new crossings; and
  • improve safety at existing crossings.

A five-year action plan should be developed and should include a provision for shared funding, including shared funding for improvement of private crossings. The Panel recommends increased funding for grade crossing improvements.

7.3 Community Outreach by Railways

The sight of the railway employee reprimanding the small boy who was trying to crawl under the train in Wetaskiwin reminded us how essential it is for railways and communities to communicate.

The relationships between railways and communities have been significantly changed in recent years by intermodal traffic, 24/7 railway operations to meet just-in-time delivery and ever-increasing transportation demands and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that trains generally no longer stop in small towns to make deliveries or pick up passengers. The railway companies are carrying more freight, transporting more dangerous goods through built-up areas, and passing through towns and villages at higher speeds. Traditional relationships between communities and railways are disappearing and it is thus doubly important that new avenues of communication be developed to garner public trust. Effective community outreach by railways is essential to the safety of the public.

The lives of our residents are completely impacted by the presence of the railways in our community. Our people work for the railways, stop for the railways, receive tax revenue from the railways, and have grown accustomed to the noise associated with what is one long industrial zone. Generally, the relationship is a happy and symbiotic one, however from time to time there are events which threaten the very life of the community….

Lytton First Nation and Village of Lytton Submission, page 1.

Railway companies themselves, along with municipalities, provinces, affected residents, the general public, members of Parliament, emergency responders, sector associations and land surveyors, raised this issue. The research study on Rail Transport and the Environment notes:

The attitude of railways to communities is not always positive and communities can in some instances be equally suspicious and resentful of the railways. The result is an adversarial relationship and/or a lack of trust between local authorities and the railways… The way forward … is more complicated; attitudes often appear entrenched and may in some cases be long-standing. …. [These issues] should nonetheless be identified and recognized for the impediment they might represent to an effective local response and the willingness of rail companies to notify and respect local authorities.46

We received numerous impassioned submissions from the public about train speed, length, noise, vibrations, shunting in yards, whistling, fumes, pollution, crossings, fencing, livestock and property damage. These suggested to us that the lines of communication between railways and communities are not always open and that railway outreach to communities could be improved. Today's public demands transparency and expects to be well informed.

There are concerns about the nature and quantity of goods, dangerous or otherwise, that are being carried through communities, especially areas of dense population. 47 Communities, including Montmagny, Quebec (which has had two major derailments in the past three years), Brandon, Manitoba, and Chilliwack, B.C., are concerned about high train speeds through residential and commercial areas.48 The maintenance and replacement of fencing is a major issue for B.C. cattlemen and ranchers, who lament the lack of fencing requirements and policy in the RSA.49 Land surveyors are finding it more difficult to gain access to railway lands to do their jobs.50 Other communities (for example, Calgary, Alberta, and Salisbury, New Brunswick) are concerned about the potential pollution of their ground water by railway activities. The railways' use of herbicides to control weeds on their rightsof- way is troubling for many.

The uneasy relationships that result from increasing urban development near railway yards and lines are evident in the number of complaints from the public about vibration and noise from railway yards, often resulting from the shunting and switching of cars and idling locomotives. While in the past, recourse for such complaints was difficult, we are satisfied that the recent amendments to the Canada Transportation Act mentioned earlier will help many communities and members of the public to address such concerns.

Another common noise-related complaint, and one that is directly linked to safety, is the issue of trains whistling as they approach a crossing. Currently, train-whistling requirements are set out in the Canadian Rail Operating Rules, and state that trains must whistle as they approach, and until they occupy, public and pedestrian crossings at grade, as a warning to vehicles and pedestrians. Under the Railway Safety Act, however, municipalities may pass a resolution prohibiting train whistling in certain areas within their boundaries, provided that the crossings in question meet regulatory safety requirements. Before passing such a resolution, the municipality must consult the railway and obtain its concurrence, notify each relevant association or organization and give public notice of its intentions. Even so, a locomotive whistle will still be used in an emergency if required under railway operating rules, or if ordered by a Transport Canada safety inspector.

Although we realize that the above solution is not always satisfactory, much research is being done in the area of train whistling, and the Panel is satisfied that the issue is being adequately addressed.51

The railway companies themselves recognize the problem of communication with the communities they pass through, and have been doing much work in this area. As we have mentioned, railways actively promote reducing the number of level crossings to mitigate risk and are pressing to be included in the design, zoning and planning processes of communities. They also support other initiatives including safe crossing programs, educational websites and collision simulations. CN has developed a railway response template for first responders. The major railways, along with provincial coroners and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, helped to develop the Canadian Rail Incident Investigation Guidelines, a work tool that assists police across Canada. The guidelines have helped to expedite the investigative process and get trains moving by putting an end to jurisdictional disputes between railway and local police in cases of deaths on railway lines.52

Both CN and CP have suicide prevention programs, safety blitzes, 1-800 emergency signs at crossings, and police forces that work jointly with police services across Canada and are active in schools and the community. VIA works regularly with the railway industry and communities to raise awareness of the need for caution around railway tracks and at level crossings. For example, VIA has collaborated with CN in the Officer on Board program, in which a train equipped with track cameras carries law enforcement officers, giving them a first-hand view of the kinds of situations locomotive engineers deal with and creating a better understanding of rail safety issues. VIA also sponsors twice-yearly town hall meetings across the country to address community concerns.

The CP Police Service has been instrumental in a “living fence” initiative that creates a natural barrier (e.g., thorny rose bushes) to deter trespassing, an alternative to traditional fencing that is easily and often cut through and vandalized. In addition, CP Police sponsor community awareness and clean-up programs, as well as a program promoting railway safety in First Nations communities, and its own Officer-On-The-Train program.

Railway companies are strongly involved in Operation Lifesaver and other community outreach and charity fund-raising initiatives. Their employees routinely make presentations to community groups about railway safety. Railway companies are also involved in community investment and corporate sponsorship programs. The participation of the railway companies in the Canadian Chemical Producers' Responsible Care® safety program, and its Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TransCAER) community outreach program is to be commended.53 Both programs serve as excellent examples of initiatives that increase community awareness of railway activities.

We were generally impressed by the existing community outreach programs run by the major railway companies. Nonetheless, we heard from many stakeholders that the railways are not doing enough to inform communities about their activities. Railways are in a unique situation, unlike aviation, marine and road transportation.

Class 1 railway rights-of-way and yards have historically been, and continue to be, federally regulated lands falling under federal jurisdiction. However, …these railway lands and yards are thinly and sporadically embedded within provincial and municipal territory and represent a ribbon of jurisdictional control literally, in the case of rail beds [railway rights-of-way], a hundred feet wide and several thousand miles long, making ongoing monitoring difficult if not impossible. … Railways have historically taken the position [with respect to environmental issues] that despite the geographic proximity of rail and provincial and municipal lands, they are not obligated to respect provincial or municipal legislation or by-laws with respect to rail operations taking place exclusively on railway property.54

In some parts of the country, the Panel heard that the major railways do not always respect or comply with local rules and requirements, or work with local authorities on emergency response planning, an issue that is discussed again in Chapter 8. Better cooperation and consultation by all parties concerned was called for.55

As we noted earlier, railway police sometimes take actions that affect provincial and municipal roads. We heard from Alberta and B.C. that railway police have sometimes denied access to local emergency personnel at accident sites.56

It is [Jasper] Council's view that the importance of an active CN commitment to local emergency planning initiatives can not be over emphasised. …. To date, however, railway officials have demonstrated little interest in working with the Municipality or in addressing the very real safety and liability concerns caused by increased activity of all kinds - not just vehicles and pedestrians, but rail traffic as well - at the level crossing.

Municipality of Jasper Submission, page 2.

One city councillor recommended that “railways should be required to participate in the emergency preparedness committees of the cities in which they operate and should be obliged to provide these cities with regular (monthly) reports of dangerous products which they carry and accidents and or derailments within their territorial limits.”57

In other places, for example, the District of North Vancouver, railways and communities are working together to resolve problems and the relationship appears to be a good one. The City of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and the Agglomération de Longueuil, both in Quebec, stressed the importance of bringing railway companies, customers and the community together to discuss shared solutions to mutual problems of a public safety nature.58

The railways should review how they communicate with key stakeholders adjacent to their lines and properties. As noted previously, participation in federal, provincial and regional meetings and conferences of fire, police and municipal officials would help to raise awareness among senior levels of municipal governments and to build the communications lines and trust that are essential during times of crisis.

Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs Submission, page 4.

While railways have established many local outreach initiatives in the numerous communities they pass through across the country, 59 there is clearly a need for more direct and regular communication with ordinary citizens, not just elected officials. This could be achieved through face-to-face town hall meetings or online consultations using Internet technology. Best practices and solutions should be shared. Liaison should be improved, lines of communication should be opened, and active partnerships should be developed with local authorities.

Mock scenarios are regularly staged by government and industry, and the September 20, 2007, “Operation Mile Marker 265” disaster scenario exercise near Cobourg, Ontario is an encouraging example of government and industry groups working together in a unified command system.60 The railway industry should be encouraged to better promote and publicize such initiatives. Media coverage and cooperation are key. The Great Canadian Railtour Company pointed out in its submission that it is important for the government to counter the effects of negative media coverage of the railway industry and restore confidence that Canada has a safe rail transportation system.61 We would argue that railway companies have an equally important responsibility to actively promote rail safety in the media.

Finally, the Panel also sees a need for improved compliance by the railways with existing regulations and rules (on blocked crossings, for example). This would certainly go a long way towards gaining public trust and improving relationships with communities.

Recommendation 36

The railway companies should expand their outreach programs to encourage better communication with the entire community.

7.4 Trespassing and Public Education

The children we saw at the crossing in Alberta reminded us that the public's attitude towards railway lines and property has traditionally been somewhat casual. Everyone has a story about walking down the tracks, but trespassing on railway property is against the law and is a serious safety problem in North America. There is regular coverage in Canadian media of people being injured or killed while trespassing on railway property. Public education is of great importance in addressing this most serious proximity issue.

7.4.1 Trespassing

Unauthorized access to railway rights-of-way, or trespassing, is a leading cause of loss of life and disabling injury. As we have mentioned, crossing and trespassing accidents remain the cause of almost all railway fatalities and serious injuries. Trespassing accidents increased by 11 per cent in 2006 over 2005, and were 15 per cent higher than the average for 2001-2005.62

Fatalities from 1996 to 2006 constitute a much higher proportion of the serious injuries and fatalities in the case of trespassing accidents (70 per cent) than in the case of crossing accidents (43 per cent).63 Between 1996 and 2006, there were 392 crossing fatalities and 655 trespassing fatalities in Canada.64

What are the reasons for this difference? One is that trespassing is not confined to grade crossings, but occurs in cities, towns, municipalities and “hot spots” across the country. As we have seen, new urban development near railways means that more people are tempted to trespass on railway property. Many people take short cuts across or along a railway line, whether on foot or on a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle. The difficulty of changing human behaviour is a major element in addressing trespassing issues. Fences, signs, policing and regulations, no matter how restrictive, are not completely effective when human behaviour is concerned. Multiple factors are often involved.

Trespassers - human beings - exposed on a railway track are far more vulnerable than human beings inside cars or trucks at crossings. There are regular reports in the media of trespassers who are killed while walking along railway lines, often listening to music on headphones, oblivious to the sound of the approaching train.65

Trespassers sit on railway tracks; they crawl under, climb onto or between railway cars, as we saw.

The third reason for the high number of trespassing fatalities is that a large proportion of them are suicides. Although statistics on suicide are difficult to obtain and substantiate, it is generally accepted that about 50 per cent of trespassing fatalities are suicides.66 This is an issue of great concern to all the major railways, particularly those involved in passenger transit. A train cannot stop nearly as quickly as a motor vehicle when faced with a trespasser on the track. Fencing and other physical barriers are usually not enough to prevent someone from committing suicide, but studies are revealing that public education programs can be effective. Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre and the Federal Railroad Administration in the U.S., along with representatives from major railways, are part of a steering committee that is studying the issue of trespasser suicides on railways, including the trauma to train crews of such incidents. The study will undertake a causal analysis of rail-related suicide, assess available countermeasures and provide recommendations for the prevention of suicide along railway rights-of-way.

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, Transport Canada has been working on new Access Control Regulations, which will help to control trespassing by restricting unauthorized access to railway rights-of-way and establishing the responsibilities of railway companies and adjacent landowners. Since 1995, there have been no formal requirements for the protection of railway rights-of-way, and this has resulted in provision of access control along some sections of right-of-way but not along others with similar adjacent land-use and population characteristics.67 The regulations have been drafted and are awaiting implementation. Again, as in the case of the Grade Crossing Regulations, this will require cooperation and consultation among the multitude of parties concerned.

Trespassing and vandalism are ever-present concerns for railways, and the “four E” approach (education, enforcement, engineering and evaluation) is often used to address them. Evaluation of the trespassing site by municipalities and railways is important so that properly engineered access control methods can be developed, including fencing, signage and video alarm systems. Railways and communities are making attempts to plan trespass-free design in existing and new urban development near railway property.

Enforcement by railway and local police is also key, and deterrents such as fines are important in underscoring the safety risks of trespassing and crossing violations. Local police are responsible for investigating crossing and trespassing accidents, but railway police officers, with their expertise in railway matters, often assist them. We heard, however, that there tends to be a lack of enforcement of trespassing and dangerous behaviour at crossings. VIA Rail, for example, noted that the enforcement powers of railway police regarding trespassing and vandalism should be extended to all law enforcement agencies.68 The Huron Central Railway, in its submission, underlined the need of short line railway companies for better support from municipalities and police forces to help control trespassing issues.69

Finally, rigorous public education programs have been proven to be very effective in preventing trespassing and vandalism, especially in combination with other methods.

7.4.2 Public Education

The Panel learned that the cycle of education, outreach and enforcement of railway safety in each community is an ongoing process that must be continually strengthened. Public education is very effective in reducing trespassing and accidents at crossings, and a wide cross-section of stakeholders have made many efforts in this area. The town of Airdrie, Alberta, for example, has built a pedestrian pathway to deter rail trespassers, and regularly raises the issue of railway safety in council meetings to increase community awareness.70 In 2004, Safe Kids Canada, the national injury prevention program of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, published an educational resource entitled On the Right Track for Rail Safety, with the assistance of Operation Lifesaver, Direction 2006 and CN.71

The RAC/FCM proximity initiative provides model guidelines and policies for dealing with trespassing, and many of the railways' community outreach educational initiatives have already been discussed in this chapter. An excellent example is GO Transit's program of using video cameras in every locomotive and cab car. These not only provide invaluable evidence of crossing and trespassing violations and near misses, but are also used as outreach tools. GO Transit regularly contacts commercial enterprises involved in near misses to provide training and information on railway operations.

Another major initiative that has significantly improved public awareness of rail safety is Operation Lifesaver, a North American public education program, which began operating in Canada in 1981 and is sponsored by the Railway Association of Canada and Transport Canada. It works in cooperation with the Canada Safety Council, provincial safety councils and leagues, railway companies, unions, police forces, emergency responders and public and community groups to reduce the needless loss of life, injuries and damage caused by highway/railway crossing collisions and train/pedestrian incidents.72

A national focal point for information on rail safety, the program focuses on the four “Es” and creates safety awareness through the promotion of safe driving skills, and attention and adherence to railway signs and warnings. It cooperates with businesses, governments, railways and civic leaders across the country, and produces printed material and audio-visual presentations in support of its message. There is a network of volunteer presenters, including railway company employees, who visit schools, malls and community groups to raise public awareness of the dangers surrounding grade crossings and trespassing on railway property. They have found that despite all of the warning devices and trespassing enforcement strategies that exist, there is still a lack of knowledge about the hazards that railways present.73

Operation Lifesaver has been a most successful program, and was unanimously praised by stakeholders we talked to across the country. The 1994 Railway Safety Act Review Committee also praised the initiative and recommended that it be given higher priority.74

Direction 2006 was a related program, which originated in a recommendation made by the same committee in 1994.75 This 10-year national initiative was intended to halve the grade crossing and railway trespassing accident rate from 1996 to 2006. Partners included Transport Canada, provincial and municipal governments, law enforcement agencies, safety organizations, and railway companies and their unions. The program focussed on research, education, enforcement, legislation, resources, outreach, performance measurement, and communications. Direction 2006 developed the Community Trespassing Prevention Guide, and was instrumental in establishing the TDC Highway-Railway Grade Crossing Research Program, as well as initiatives to include rail safety awareness in provincial driver education programs. Although the program did not meet its target of a 50 per cent reduction in accidents, it did reduce them by 26 per cent and is considered to have been successful in raising rail safety awareness.

With the demise of Direction 2006, the Panel was pleased to learn that Transport Canada is establishing a new and permanent outreach program to eliminate crossing collisions and trespassing incidents. The department will integrate its Operation Lifesaver involvement and continued partnerships with stakeholders, including provincial governments, regional offices and provincial safety leagues into the program. Interim funding from the department has been approved and industry partners will contribute in-kind resources. This will certainly help to strengthen and consolidate public awareness of railway safety.

There is a need to take pride in accomplishments in the public education area. Many excellent programs are being carried out and more are being planned. Federal funding for these critically important public safety initiatives is essential and should continue and be enhanced. In addition, we feel that provincial governments, which sponsor massive advertising campaigns for road safety awareness programs, should take more of an educative role in promoting rail safety. The two are, after all, closely related. With the changing nature of rail operations and urban development in this country, possibly leading to many more incidents of the type we witnessed, and worse, the importance of the funding of public safety education cannot be underestimated.

Recommendation 37

Public education programs, such as Operation Lifesaver and Direction 2006, to reduce trespassing and accidents at crossings, have been successful and should be renewed where necessary, and enhanced.


1 CN, “Railway Safety in the Community,” Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel (June 27, 2007), page 17.

2 City of Côte Saint-Luc, Submission of Dida Berku, City Councillor Côte Saint-Luc (June 2007).

3 Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, Submission to the Railway Safety Act Advisory Panel (August 2007), page 4.

4 Ron Stewart, Russell Brownlee, Matt Colwill and Shelagh MacDonald, IBI Group UMA/AECOM, Identification and Examination of Safety at Private Crossings, Prepared for Transportation Development Centre, Transport Canada (February 2007), page 59.

5 Official Plans and Plan Amendments, O. Reg. 543/06, s. 3(9) 7, under the Planning Act (R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13).

6 CN, “Railway Safety in the Community,” op. cit., page 18.

7 Railway/Municipality Proximity Issues Information Base website, “About Us - Joint Initiative:”

8 Ibid.

9 Canadian Transportation Agency website:

10 Railway Association of Canada, Proximity Management & Community Outreach in Canada, Presentation to Railway Safety Act Review Panel (July 2007).

11 IBI Group, Safety at Private Crossings, op. cit., page 59.

12 Railway/Municipality Proximity Issues Information Base website, op cit.

13 Railway Association of Canada, “Canada's Railways Lead North America in Safety,” Safety Backgrounder (July 2007), page 3.

14 Data provided by Transport Canada, Rail Safety Directorate, November 2007. For the purposes of this chapter, farm crossings have been included under private crossings.

15 U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, Highway-Rail Crossing & Trespassing Safety Initiative

16 Highway-Rail Crossing Program, Federal Railroad Administration website:

17 Association of American Railroads website:

18 Joseph Schulman, CPCS Transcom Limited, The State of Rail Safety in Canada (August 2007), section 2.3.

19 Ibid, section 2.3.

20 IBI Group, Safety at Private Crossings, op. cit., page ix.

21 Highway-Railway Grade Crossing Research Program, from Research Initiatives Update: Presentation to the 19th Annual Operation Lifesaver Conference, September 18, 2007. Also see the Transportation Development Centre website.

22 IBI Group, Safety at Private Crossings, op.cit., page 61.

23 Ibid., page 61.

24 Ibid., page 61.

25 To have a right to a crossing under section 102 of the Canada Transportation Act, there must be a piece of land under private ownership which was divided by the construction of a railway line sometime after 1888 and which has remained in single ownership since that time. In such cases, the railway supplies and pays for a crossing. … The usual reasons for denial include a) the railway was constructed on Crown land and not over private land; b) the construction occurred prior to 1888 when the right to a crossing was first established under the Railway Act; c) land on one side of the railway has been sold or severed and the right to cross was not maintained in the transfer; d) the land on both sides of the railway has been purchased at different times (did not remain in single ownership). Information provided by the CTA.

26 VIA Rail Canada, Submission to Railway Safety Act Review Panel (August 2007), page 13.

27 Schulman, State of Rail Safety, op. cit., section 5.

28 Transport Canada, News Releases, “Government Partnership Opens Winnipeg Underpass,” (September 22, 2006); seven releases on April 23, 2007; “Government of Canada Announces Improvements to the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor,” (June 28, 2007).

29 Transportation Safety Board website: See, for example, Reports RO4H0009 (Munster), R04H0014 (Castleford) and R05T0030 (Brockville).

30 James Mitchell and Nigel Chippindale, Sussex Circle Inc., The Governance of Railway Safety in Canada (September 2007), section 5-B, “Issue 11.”

31 Neil D. Lerner, Robert E. Llaneras, Hugh W. McGee and Donald E. Stephens, Traffic-Control Devices for Passive Railroad-Highway Grade Crossings, NCHRP Report 470, Transportation Research Board-U.S. National Research Council (2002), pages 21-23.

32 Railway police are responsible for the enforcement of Part III of the Canada Transportation Act and for the enforcement of federal or provincial laws relating to the protection of railway company property and the protection of persons and property on that property. The police constable has jurisdiction on railway company property and within 500 metres of that property. The statutory authorities for railway police were transferred to the Railway Safety Act from the Canada Transportation Act in June 2007.

33 VIA Rail Submission, op. cit., page 12.

34 GO Transit has also installed bells, lights and gates at all its crossings, at its own expense, for maximum crossing protection and improved public safety.

35 Switching operations can involve a number of different activities, such as moving railway cars from one track to another, building trains, or placing cars for loading.

36 Town of Rivers, Manitoba, submissions to the Railway Safety Act Review (May 2007).

37 Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, Saskatchewan Legislative Board submission/ presentation, June 6, 2007.

38 Transport Canada, Transportation in Canada 2006, Annual Report, (May 2007), page 25. Because of inflation, this represents a steadily declining amount in real dollar terms.

39 According to statistics provided to the Panel by Transport Canada's Rail Safety Directorate, the five-year average collision rate for crossings funded under the GCIP between 1989 and 2004 was reduced by 70 per cent. The fatality rate was reduced by 83 per cent. For public crossings not funded under the GCIP, the collision rate decreased only moderately, by 4.8 per cent, while the fatality rate increased significantly, by 22.7 per cent.

40 Northumberland County, Ontario, submission to the Railway Safety Act Review (July 2007).

41 Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation, Government of Saskatchewan Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel (May 2007), page 6.

42 New Brunswick Department of Transportation, Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel (July 2007), page 12.

43 Manitoba, Submission, op. cit., page 7.

44 Ibid., page 7; Nova Scotia Transportation and Public Works, Government of Nova Scotia Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel (June 2007), page 5-6

45 Ministry of Transportation Ontario, Submission to Railway Safety Act Review Panel (August 2007).

46 Liane E. Benoit, Benoit & Associates, Rail Transport and the Environment in Canada (August 2007), pages 32-33.

47 See for example, submissions from Defenders of Wildlife Canada (April 9, 2007), and Eka Chemicals Canada Inc. (June 15, 2007).

48 Ville de Montmagny, Demande de réduction de la vitesse du train dans la Ville de Montmagny, submission to Railway Safety Act Review (June 2007); submission of Brian Kayes, Director of Emergency Coordination, Brandon, Manitoba (June 28, 2007); submission of City of Chilliwack (April 18, 2007).

49 Noted in British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Advisory Panel (September 2007), page 6.

50 Canadian Council of Land Surveyors, submission to the Railway Safety Act Review (August 7, 2007).

51 For example, a wayside horn pilot project is being tested in the Saguenay region of Quebec to determine if the technology can effectively reduce noise levels and provide the same, or a higher, level of safety as the locomotive horn. The wayside horn sound is directed towards oncoming road traffic as the train passes, rather than the train sounding its horn as it rolls through the community. Information provided by Ministère des Transports Québec; Railway Association of Canada, Safety Backgrounder, op. cit., page 3.

52 Presentation by Dr. Jim Cairns, Deputy Chief Coroner, Ontario, Operation Lifesaver Conference, September 18, 2007.

53 Canadian Chemical Producers' Association website, Responsible Care® program:

54 Benoit, op cit., section 3.

55 City of Kamloops, submission to the Railway Safety Act Review (May 14, 2007).

56 “The practice of the railways to routinely fail to engage the local or provincial responders in the response, at times by way of a very adversarial approach, is alarming.” Province of Alberta, Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel (July 2007), page 7. Also see submission from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (July 20, 2007) and District of Chetwynd submissions (May 2 and 18, 2007).

57 City of Côte Saint-Luc, Submission of Dida Berku, op. cit., page 2.

58 Submissions to the Railway Safety Act Review from Ville de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (June 15, 2007), and l'Agglomération de Longueuil (August 7, 2007).

59 CP, for example, passes through some 600 communities in Canada, see Canadian Pacific Railway Company, “Safety Demands Community Involvement and Participation,” Second Submission (May 2007).

60 Railway Association of Canada, “Operation Mile Marker 265,” News Release (September 20, 2007).

61 Great Canadian Railtour Company, Submission to the Railway Safety Act Review Panel (August 2007).

62 Schulman, State of Rail Safety, op. cit., section 2.3.

63 Ibid, section 3.2.1.

64 Ibid, section 3.9.

65 For example, an October 2, 2007 article from the Hamilton Spectator reported on the death of an 18-year old Grimsby student walking along the tracks wearing his MP3 player earphones; in July, according to a Canadian Press report, a 24-year old was killed by a freight train in Toronto while sitting on the tracks listening to music.

66 Information provided by Transport Canada - Rail Safety Directorate.

67 See Transport Canada, Draft - Access Control Regulations (Version 16, dated November 15th, 2002); Transport Canada, Railway Right of Way Access Control Policy (July 2006).

68 VIA Rail, Submission, op. cit., pages 12-13.

69 Submission of Huron Central Railway (August 2007).

70 “Mayor sends message about railway safety,” Airdrie Echo (July 11, 2007).

71 Safe Kids Canada, On the Right Track for Rail Safety (August 2004).

72 Operation Lifesaver website:

73 Ibid.

74 Railway Safety Act Review Committee, On Track: The Future of Railway Safety in Canada, Report of the Railway Safety Act Review Committee (December 1994), page 89.

75 Ibid, page 104.

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